Virginia's Reviews

Book Review: Rightfully Ours


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I won a copy Rightfully Ours, by  Carolyn Astfalk from a Facebook giveaway. I began reading it on Saturday morning and finished it on Monday afternoon. I found myself picking it up in spite of a flurry of activities, anxious to discover what came next.

As I read I thought, “This would be a great book for teens to read.” Even though it’s been almost fifty years since I fell into this age group, the feelings and thoughts of my youth came back in vivid memories as I read. Carolyn wrote how my brain tells me that I felt.

I liked the style of the writing. The main characters had flaws so they didn’t feel like cardboard caricatures. It had just the right amount of descriptive scenery to transport me to rural Pennsylvania, but not so much that I skipped those paragraphs. I thought the feelings between Paul and Rachel developed at a speed that felt real. Often times, one party feels differently and it takes time for the relationship to morph from friendship to deep feelings of affection. I liked the way Carolyn handled those thoughts and reactions, as well as how innocent situations can escalate out of control.

I also liked the way the author wove her beliefs into the story without it feeling preachy. It sent me a clear message about the struggles that some teens face and their wish to discover a way to handles their passions.

Coming of age stories fall into “one of my favorite” categories for novels, and this story lived up to my expectations.

I would recommend this book for teens, especially those in a dating relationship, and for those who wish to understand them. I plan to pass on Rightfully Ours to a local high school library so teenagers can enjoy this fast-moving, readable novel with plenty of action and a mystery that held my interest.

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Faith is important to me., My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

WOW!


I’m doing a happy dance today because of yesterday, May 24.

Let me explain. Earlier this year I submitted my book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith to two different awards. One award: the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval (SOA.); the second one: the coveted Selah Award.

What are they?

From the website for the SOA: “The purpose of the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval is to help Catholic bookstores and venues in their determination of the Catholicity of a work. This reassurance from a professional organization can assist authors in marketing alogo-color-cwg-soa-copynd promoting their works. Books are also judged by their editorial integrity as well.

Readers can be assured that SoA books will not offend their faith and have a certain level of editorial quality.”

At the end of March I received notice that Broken Brain, Fortified Faith had received the SOA.  I did a happy dance!

On May 2, I received an email that Broken Brain, Fortified Faith had made the finalists list for The Selah Award. From their Facebook page: “The Selah Awards, which are awarded annually at BRMCWC, are awarded to books within Christian publishing that are considered excellent within their genre.”

Talk about excited!

Last night, the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWCSelahs_Seal_WINNER_2017[3098]) announced the Selah awards for the top books in each genre. Since I couldn’t go, I tuned in via twitter which posted as they were announced. I’m glad I was alone during the awards. As I read my name in the twitter feed, “Winner, Memoir, Virginia Pillars — Broken Brain, Fortified Faith (Familius) contd,” I cried tears of gratitude  –  and no one watched.

If you’ve read this blog, you may understand that I didn’t think of myself as a author. I didn’t write much until I hit my 50’s. (Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.) Even as I met with success, I didn’t consider myself in the same category with the award-winning authors. I just didn’t. I’m too new in the world of writing and publishing.

This morning, after I calmed down a bit I picked up one of my daily devotionals. I sat stunned as I read yesterday’s reflection. (I hadn’t taken the time yesterday –  shame on me.)

As I read the words written by Twila Belk in her book, Raindrops from Heaven, I had a feeling of empowerment.

May 24When I work in tandem with the Holy Spirit, powerful things happen. My mouth moves, and messages come out that I didn’t even have in my head. And those messages impact lives. It’s so much fun! Thank you for giving me stories to tell and for the power to get them said.”

“It IS fun!”

Don’t get me wrong, the story I wrote was NOT fun. Anything, but, and I’d never wish the situation on anyone. But happen it did, and to our family. But the second installment of my story is fun. The writing, the publishing, the awards! Now, I truly believe even when I didn’t feel capable to write and share our story, the Holy Spirit guided me. I asked, listened and then moved forward.

If reading our story, or my thoughts in this blog helps another person, then I feel it gives the journey I took meaning.

Rejoice with me. It can happen. And to top it off, the award came during Mental Health Awareness month. Broken Brain, Fortified Faith shares my struggles as my daughter battled schizophrenia. Now, I hope, countless people are aware! Plus, as a final bonus, I get to put award stickers on my book and my press release reads: “Award-winning author.”

Wow! Somebody pinch me.

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

One Mother’s Story


Today I want to post another mother’s story.  A librarian I met recently sent me this link to a regional newspaper, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, where this story appeared during Mental Health Awareness Month. It illustrates the cruel nature of mental illness. One family who did everything to help their daughter. They loved her, they enveloped her with support, they searched for the proper treatment and doctors. And yet, recovery continues to elude them. And this mother’s heart remains shattered.

One Mother’s Story

My heart feels heavy for this family. Even though I don’t know them personally, I feel as though I do. Their story shares so many similar traits with other families I meet. And my heart continues to break with theirs. But sitting around in sadness doesn’t help the situation.

I can only resolve to remember that we, as a culture, have so much work to do. I personally feel compelled to pray for answers for others who battle each day and their families. I want to support the families and the individuals who feel hopeless and helpless in the face of an unrelenting, cruel illness. I vow to strive to bring awareness to those who misunderstand this biological illness and somehow think it’s a character flaw. I want to continue to donate to help fund the research to unlock the mysteries of the broken brain.

Guest Blogs

Book Review @ FranciscanMom.com


Thank you, for this wonderful review Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS.

A few lines from Barb’s Bookshelf review:

Virginia Pillars’ memoir of a mother navigating the world of parenting a young adult with a brand-new diagnosis schizophrenia is at once heart-wrenching, informative and inspiring. In Broken Brain, Fortified Faith, Pillars honestly describes her day-by-day experience with her daughter’s illness and recovery, with a view toward helping other families whose lives are touched by a frustrating disease.

“The author’s conversational style make a book with challenging subject matter easy to read. Pillars takes a day-by-day approach through the difficult months of diagnosis and a search for appropriate treatment, bringing the reader along for the ride to hospitals, waiting rooms, and therapists’ offices. Her first impulse, when hearing of any kind of setback, is to place her daughter in God’s hands, asking Him to be with her in that time of crisis.”

Read the rest of her review on Barb’s Bookshelf.

Barb also blogs at CatholicMom and Cook and Count.

I appreciate the time other people give me when they read my book and write a review. We’re all busy people and most everyone I know puts too much on their plate each day. So I am grateful to other authors who take time for my project!

Thank you, Barb!

 

Faith is important to me., My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Memoir -Schizophrenia – Struggles – Healing. A review by Jean Heiman


Jean Heiman wrote a wonderful view for my book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith, at Catholic Fire. According to the website’s tagline, “If you are what you should be, you’ll set the world on fire.”

First, thank you Jean Heiman. I appreciate your time to read Broken Brain, Fortified Faith and write a review. Your kind words mean a great deal to me.

Just a few lines of her review:

“This memoir describes how the family struggles with these difficult issues and responds to the setbacks with the help of trusted friends and support groups.”

“…I found it difficult to put down. It is a compelling read, understandable, and well-written.”

“…poignant, uplifting, and hopeful story of one woman and her family to conquer crises…”

“…recommend for all who have had to deal with the stigma of a mental health diagnosis…”

Please visit her website  to read the entire review at Catholic Fire.

I used my faith to get through my struggles while I dealt with the agony of schizophrenia as it unleashed most of the nasty symptoms it had to offer on my daughter. It’s who I am. My faith may look different than my readers, but I hope that will not deter anyone from joining our family as I detail our journey from despair to hope to recovery.  I also hope those who read my book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith,  find the support and guidance as I did. It helped me cope and react with love, patience and a resolve to help her manage a painful and frightening time in her life. I found wonderful, free education and supportive people who understood our situation through our local NAMI organization, which stands for The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Thanks so much for stopping by today.

Virginia Pillars

 

Faith is important to me., How To Eat an Elephant, My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Elephant in the Room


We’ve all heard the term, “elephant in the room” – the subject everyone knows about, but no one talks about it. Well, not in polite company anyway…

When I grew up, back in the 60’s and 70’s, lots of subjects fell into this category. Pregnancy, for one. PG was the term I heard often when I listened to my mother and aunts talk over coffee.

Cancer was another one. When the adults in my life discussed the “illness,” they referred to it as “C.” I don’t know if they thought they would catch it or what. But I didn’t hear the word cancer.

Of course, mental illness. I heard the term, nervous breakdown once in a while, but I didn’t know what that meant. People kept these struggles behind their front door. We didn’t know about them.

Fast forward fifty-some years. We’ve changed our thoughts on what is a topic of polite conversation. We chat about pregnancy and cancer often, with either joy, as is often the case for expecting a child, or concern over the devastating illness cancer. We, as a culture, rally around those who face cancer with cards, letters, fund-raisers, and food. We promise to pray for them.

Mental illness has lagged behind the other two subjects as one we feel we can tell our family and friends to obtain support. It’s still the elephant in the room. There is still some amount of stigma and shame associated with this illness that science has proven to have a biological base.

I know when it struck our family in 2004, I reacted the same way. I kept it to myself. I didn’t tell those around me on a daily basis. I told immediate family and no one else. I was embarrassed. Why? Because I didn’t know other families who dealt with it. I thought we’d be judged. What had I done as a mom to cause this? Why didn’t I prevent it?

Once I realized that my child suffered from a broken brain, I changed my attitude. I reached out to extended family and friends. I found support. I found understanding. I found people who promised to pray for our situation. And I found healing.

One in five individuals deals with a mental health issue at some time in their life. One in four families knows about the pain that accompanies it. More wages are lost to mental illness than cancer, heart and lung disease combined.

Let’s start a conversation. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Let’s continue it. Let’s let others know of our struggles. Let’s support others in theirs. Let’s rally around families as they deal with the unthinkable. How about a gift card for gas? It takes many trips to doctors, therapists, hospital visits, and food. Can we send a card or note to let them know they are in our thoughts and prayers?

I’ve heard it said in NAMI groups, “No one brings you a casserole when your loved one is in a mental health unit…” We did. We actually had someone bring us a casserole when our child was in the hospital. But the best part – they sat and shared a meal with us. They stayed with us to listen and cry with us.  They reminded me of the friends at the end of the book of Job.  They didn’t say anything because they knew our pain was so great.

Because of my own experience, I reach out to others and give them permission to talk about whatever it is they need to say.

 

Guest Blogs, My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Book Review by Jeanie Ewing


Thank you, Jeannie Ewing for this wonderful review!

Broken Brain, Fortified Faith

I stumbled upon this book when I was at my brief EWTN visit last summer.  It was atop a stack of books and magazines in the great room of the guest house where I stayed, and I picked it up, curious and intrigued.  After a moment, I decided I would swap this book for another I had finished on my trip.

A few months later, I discovered the author, Virginia Pillars, on social media.  We briefly connected, and I realized it was time for me to start reading the book.  The initial intrigue I felt was due to the fact that I also have mental illness in my family.  We do not have a history of schizophrenia, but bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder are both quite prevalent.  Plus, with my background and interest in psychology and counseling, I knew it was an important read.

Pillars’ book is a memoir, which is very fascinating and well written.  She describes her family’s journey through her daughter’s diagnosis of schizophrenia and several hospitalizations, as well as other tragedies they endured in only a two-year span: the death of her infant grandson and her daughter-in-law’s bout with cancer.

What sustained Pillars through all of this?  Her faith.  Like most of us, she was shaken and her faith was also tested, but she very honestly explains how she moved from discouragement to hope – through reading her daily devotionals to helpful books and connecting with close friends and family members, many of whom were true godsends to her at the time she needed the most encouragement.

Broken Brain, Fortified Faith is a book that will both inspire and inform anyone who is struggling to understand a loved one’s diagnosis of mental illness.  In addition to the eloquent underpinning of her grief journey, Pillars includes a short list of helpful resources for her readers to peruse more thoroughly, including the NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) website and the books that helped her understand mental illness in general.

Above all, the best point she makes is how important it is for each of us to do our part in helping to change the culture of stigma surrounding mental illness.  If we learn how to advocate for those who suffer in this invisible way, we can help change people’s hearts and minds about mental illness.  The truth remains: we often fear what we do not understand.  Education and advocacy are key to unraveling the mystery of mental illness, and Broken Brain, Fortified Faith is a smart resource for those who work in the mental health industry or as a personal companion through the toughest moments you will face with your loved one.

Copyright 2017 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.

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